To See Ourselves As Others See Us | Parashat Balak
This week’s Torah portion of Balak in the Book of Numbers includes some of the best words an outsider ever delivered about our people. Balak is one of just three portions in the entire Torah named after a non-Jew; the others, of course, are Noah—Judaism doesn’t begin until Abraham, so Noah wasn’t Jewish—and Yitro, Jethro, Moses’ Midianite father-in-law.
Finding Miriam’s Well | Parashat Chukat
Water is the most important substance for all life on Earth. It is also an important element in Judaism. Crossing a large body of water is a transformative step. Jacob encounters the angel of God at the Jabok cross of the Jordan River. This experience transformed him form the crooked Jacob to the one struggling with God – Israel.
Learning How to Go from Stress to Empowerment | Parashat Korach
In Parashat Korach, Moses’ cousin, Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, demanding, “All the community are holy … Why then do you raise yourselves above the Eternal’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). Often, Korach’s actions are interpreted to be the jealous behavior of one who sees himself as entitled to power. But what if his behavior reflects something different — a feeling of helplessness and a fear of being disenfranchised?
Choose Hope: The Story of Coach Ted Lasso and the Biblical Caleb | Parashat Shelach Lechah
In the story of the spies from this week’s parashah, Sh’lach L’cha, we find the Torah’s version of Ted Lasso. Moses sends 12 men, one from each tribe, to scout the land of Canaan. They are tasked with finding out how many people live in the land, if the soil was rich for farming, and if their towns were fortified. After 40 days, the men return downtrodden.
Dual-Gendered God | Parashat Beha’alotcha
The four-Hebrew-letter name of God signifies a dual-gendered deity. That was Judaism’s best-kept secret until 1540, when kabbalists ruled that revealing esoteric lore was not only permissible but a mitzvah.
Lift up Your Heads | Parashat Naso
We have just celebrated the festival of Shavuot, which tradition tells us commemorates (in some ways re-enacts) the great event at Mt. Sinai. The Torah reading for Shavuot begins, Bayom hazeh (Ex. 19:1), on this day. Introducing the dramatic moment, the Torah declares that it is taking place not “on that day,” back then, a long time ago, but on this day, bayom hazeh — every day the Torah is being broadcast, waiting to be heard. An offering.
Welcome to the Wilderness | Parashat Bamidbar
A core teaching of Jewish spiritual practice is our readiness to read the Torah in many different ways. We find meaning and significance across entire books; or we zoom in, such that an individual letter or even an accent mark fills our field of vision and discloses sacred truth. The weekly parashah is, of course, the most common “unit” for informing our reading.
The Sound of a Driven Leaf | Parashat Behar-Bechukotai
My grandfather, Herman, zikhrono livrakhah, was born in Obodovka, a shtetl in western Ukraine, a little over a century ago. Stories of his youth there were bleak and often centred on Cossack or Russian government soldiers threatening the lives or livelihoods of relatives.
Scurvy, the Boughs of Leafy Trees, and Healing | Parashat Emor
If the portions in the Torah’s Book of Genesis spin timeless tales of complicated family dynamics, sibling rivalry, spousal jealousy, treachery, and reconciliation, Leviticus oozes with laws regarding sacrifices, priestly matters, and the festival calendar. Emor, this week’s portion, is a veritable kitchen sink (or perhaps more precisely, a tabernacle altar) of rules for the priests forbidding them from encountering dead bodies, offering guidance on beard trimming, and providing descriptions of appropriate life partners.
After Pandemic and Death, There is Holiness and Hope | Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber | Derekh: A Pathway into Adult Jewish Learning, New Yok, USA God instructs Moses to speak to Aaron who is in isolation and mourning for his sons. Aaron performs the rites of atonement though his grief. The Israelites are warned not to follow the ways of the Egyptians or the Canaanites, […]
The Power of Water | Parashat Tazria-Metzora
The parasha of Tazria-Metzora has generally been disliked by B’nei Mitzvah and drash-writers for its difficult subject matter that seems far away from contemporary life. However, this is now the second time that we have read the portion in the context of our own world-wide illness, and with regard to how communities are trying to control the spread of Covid-19.
The Power of Silence | Parashat Shemini
Parashat Sh’mini contains the tragic and challenging story of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. These priests took their firepans, put fire and incense on them and offered “alien fire which God had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:2). A fire immediately comes forth from Heaven and consumes them. The commentators struggle to determine precisely why their offering provokes such a swift and harsh punishment.